Enforced Removal (Families with Young Children)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:10 pm on 10th January 2006.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 12:10 pm, 10th January 2006

I recognise that, but it does not obviate my point that a blanket position that no child would ever be deported might do more harm than good.

So far, I have been rather sympathetic to the Government's position and the problems facing Ministers in policy making. I am indeed sympathetic to those who have to take decisions in every individual case, but there are legitimate questions to be asked and criticisms to be made of the Government's current position. I echo the point made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South concerning the organisation in the host countries for those who are sent back. Common humanity should dictate that some kind of decent reception is organised as a matter of course, and clearly that does not happen at present, not only in the particularly dangerous countries the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but in many other places.

I also echo a point made by Save the Children relating to the detention, rather than the removal, of children—although it applies even more strongly if a child is to be removed. Decent pastoral care of the child should be organised before the removal happens. From a child's point of view, it would be even more inhumane if such a thing were to happen out of the blue than it would if they had some knowledge and explanation beforehand. That does not happen often enough.

My third point concerns the length of time it takes the Home Office to respond to contact from families—a point that was also raised by Jeremy Corbyn. I have seen no improvement in recent months and years, but I hope that the Minister can produce some figures to show that my anecdotal experience is wrong.

My fourth and most general point concerns the time for which families are in this country before their case is decided. For a young child, every month that passes is a significant amount of time, during which normality is established. For such children, three or four years living in one town in one country is literally half a lifetime. That is why it is legitimate to criticise the Government for the administrative failures that still bedevil the asylum system, which forced them to introduce the amnesty—if we can use that word—to reduce the numbers of those here illegally to manageable proportions.

In that context, I would like to ask the Minister some questions designed to inform us about the scale of the problem that remains. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South has at times suggested extending the amnesty time beyond the three-year period. I am not sure whether I agree with the idea of individual case-by-case extensions because we need certainty in this area for the families.